Saturday night’s game against the Magic is huge for the Pacers, as they look to gain a stranglehold on their first-round series. With the Heat looking like a team destined for greatness, Indiana cannot afford to overextend itself. Making this a 5-game series could be crucial for the Pacers. With that being said, here are the statistics and trends behind their 2-1 advantage: numbers that need to continue if they want to return to Indianapolis with a 3-1 lead.
The Magic, coming into the season, excelled at only two things: dominating the paint and knocking down transition triples. Well, the Pacers have dominated both of the “strengths” in the first three games of this series. Indiana has outscored the Magic by 52 points in the paint and is 38 points in transition. The Pacers, however, aren’t reigning down three pointers, but rather getting great looks at the rim. An astounding 47.9% of the Pacers points have come in the painted area, while the Magic have scored only 32.6% of their points from the interior. Indiana’s lack of settling for jump shots is directly correlated to their shooting edge (41.2% compared to 39%) thus far. As for their advantage on the break, the cause is simple: they are pushing the ball more. The Pacers are making 5.3 shots in transition per game while the Magic have attempted 6 shots in transition all series. Without Dwight Howard healthy and the Pacers increasingly figuring out how to be an uptempo power post team, the ability to keep the Magic resigned to scoring in the half court makes the Pacers a heavy favorite to finish this series of in five games.
Although Howard is out, “Superman” has still shown up in this series. He is just wearing gold and blue.
Roy Hibbert is quietly establishing himself as a center that a team can build around, mainly by defending the rim at an elite level. Hibbert has blocked 14 shots this series (highlighted by a franchise record 9 blocks in Game One), one more than the entire Magic roster. While Glen “Big Baby” Davis is leading the Magic in scoring at 18.7 ppg, he is shooting only 42.6% from the field, remarkably low considering how close to the rim the majority of his attempts have been.
All quarters are created equal, but the Pacers dominance of the third quarter is much to do with their success over the past week. Coach Vogel has earned himself the title of “master of the mid-game” as his Pacers are winning the third quarter by an average of 12.7 points per game.
One statistical category where the Pacers need to improve is assists. While the lack of helpers hasn’t prevented them from scoring, they will need to share the ball at a more effective rate if they want a chance later in the postseason. Orlando has “out-assisted” Indiana by 6 thus far, as the Pacers have no real consistent distributor. Darren Collison is leading the team with 8 dimes, one fewer than Jameer Nelson had in Game One alone.
I leave you with a final odd trend: the team that has had the game’s leader in minutes played is 3-0 in this series.
Logic would state that the Pacers should leave Danny Granger or David West on the floor, but I’ve got a better idea. George Hill leads all Pacers in plus/minus ratio during the first three games (+56), so he gets my vote for extended playing time Saturday afternoon.